How To Get Your Deposit Returned By A Landlord
We all read about horror stories and headlines along the lines of "the landlord from hell". However, in most cases landlords are just as honest as the average member of the public, and if you stick to your end of the bargain - pay your bills on time and leave the property in good condition - then getting your deposit back is as simple as asking for it.
Occasionally, however, people do experience problems getting their deposit back, and despite asking for it, it can become apparent the landlord has little or no intention of returning the said deposit. What can you do, if you find yourself in this situation, to get your deposit back?
Well, the first thing to do is the obvious - try to minimise any chances of there being problems. Do this by being a good and conscientious tenant during your stay - keep the landlord up to date with any issues as and when they happen, pay your rent on time, and leave it in tiptop condition: even if you're not a fan of cleaning, giving it a good going over and leaving it as sparkling as possible should all help reduce the chances of any issues arising. This also makes sense as, if there are problems, then you will need to have a strong case if you ultimately go to the small claims court. Therefore take photographs of the state you leave the place in to prove that everything is in good condition and good order (ensure they are dated). If you have broken anything, be upfront and honest about it.
At the end of your tenancy, you should arrange to go around the property with the landlord and find out any issues that they have - for instance broken items etc - and how much money they intend to withhold from the deposit for that. If there is no dispute over the fact that there should be some withholding, you could offer to replace them yourself and see if the landlord agrees, as this is usually cheaper than getting the landlord to replace them. If you can agree on an overall amount of your deposit you will get back, this saves any further hassle.
If they are being unreasonable, for instance just withholding your deposit for no apparent reason or claiming there are issues which are patently untrue, then you may have to take other steps - there are private companies out there that offer deposit reclaiming services, which you could consider. Just be sure about how much you will have to pay them for their service, and whether this is via an upfront fee and a percentage of what they get back, or some other structure. Students should check that the agent/landlord is registered with one of the various deposit schemes that exist and in addition check with them that you will get a certificate of deposit protection.
Summary: hopefully you will have no problems, but you can help avoid them by:
- being a good tenant and paying your rent on time every month
- be organised and keep a log of any issues / breakages etc
- keep a full inventory as you go along of everything in the property and its state at the start / end of your tenancy. The landlord may provide you with an inventory when you move in, so check it carefully at that stage so there is agreement between you on the list and its accuracy / state of anything on it as necessary
- photographic evidence at the start and end: thus if a landlord claims the carpets are filthy and they have to replace them as a reason for not returning your deposit, you can show as proof the state of the carpet at the start and end of your tenancy via the photographs: knowing you will stand your ground and, importantly, have the means to do so via the proof and logs you have will stop many people from chancing their arm - if the path of least resistance is just to return your deposit, then that is a powerful motivation for many landlords to do just that.
Last update: 27 Mar 2015
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